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View Count: 206 |  Publish Date: April 06, 2014
Peter Matthiessen, author who embraced nature, dies

New York --
Peter Matthiessen, who spurned a life of ease and privilege in favor of physical and spiritual challenges and produced such acclaimed works as The Snow Leopard and At Play in the Fields of the Lord, died Saturday. He was 86.
His publisher Geoff Kloske of Riverhead Books said Mr. Matthiessen, who had been diagnosed with leukemia, died at a hospital near his home on Long Island.
Mr. Matthiessen helped found the Paris Review, one of the most influential literary magazines, and won National Book Awards for The Snow Leopard, his spiritual account of the Himalayas, and for Shadow Country. His new novel, In Paradise, is scheduled for publication Tuesday.Child of wealth
A leading environmentalist and wilderness writer, he embraced the best and worst that nature could bring him, whether trekking across the Himalayas, parrying sharks in Australia or enduring a hurricane in Antarctica.
He was a longtime liberal who befriended Cesar Chavez and wrote a defense of Indian activist Leonard Peltier, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, that led to a highly publicized, and unsuccessful, lawsuit by an FBI agent who said Mr. Matthiessen had defamed him.
Mr. Matthiessen became a Zen Buddhist in the 1960s, and was later a Zen priest who met daily with a fellow group of practitioners in a meditation hut that he converted from an old stable. The granite-faced author, rugged and athletic into his 80s, tried to live out a modern version of the Buddhist legend, a child of wealth transformed by the discovery of suffering.
He was born in New York in 1927, the son of Erard Matthiessen, an architect and conservationist. The Depression had no serious effect on our well-insulated family, the author would later write.
After graduation from Yale he moved to Paris and, along with fellow writer-adventurer George Plimpton, helped found the Paris Review. (Mr. Matthiessen would later acknowledge he was a CIA recruit at the time and used his work with the Review as a cover).Major novelist
In the mid-1950s, he returned to the United States, moved to Long Islands Sag Harbor, socialized with Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and other painters, operated a deep-sea fishing charter boat - and wrote.
In 1961, Mr. Matthiessen emerged as a major novelist with At Play in the Fields of the Lord, his tale of missionaries under siege from both natives and mercenaries in the jungles of Brazil. The book was later adapted into a film of the same name, starring John Lithgow and Daryl Hannah.
In the 1980s and 90s, Mr. Matthiessen published a trio of novels - Killing Mr. Watson, Lost Mans River and Bone by Bone - about a community in Floridas Everglades at the turn of the 20th century and a predatory planter. Unhappy, he spent years revising and condensing all three into Shadow Country, published in 2008 and a surprise National Book Award winner.

Time: 7:16  |  News Code: 395907  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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